4 Heart-Smart Tips for Marathon Runners

As we celebrate American Heart Month, it’s important to stay heart-smart, especially when it comes to running marathons. Whether you are a seasoned marathoner or just getting started on your running journey, here are four tips for marathon runners to help you maximize your training and be heart-smart during race day.

Young man running in the Poudre Canyon

The Benefits of Running For Your Heart

Let’s start off by focusing on the positive effects that running can have on one’s heart health. According to research from Johns Hopkins Medical, regular physical activity and aerobic exercise like running can help: 

  • Reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, or having a stroke or other cardiovascular event
  • Improve cholesterol levels
  • Reduce inflammation in the body

As it turns out, doing something you love and enjoy provides more than just a way to stay fit; it also provides a lot of love to your heart and whole-body health!

Maximize Your Running Routine During Training

If you want to get the most out of your marathon training routine and protect your heart at the same time, there are a few things you should keep in mind: 

  • Pre-Run Warm-Up – Properly warm up with dynamic stretches; these will help get your muscles ready to work hard while preventing any potential injuries due to tightness.
  • Post-Run Cool Down – When you finish a run, always engage in static stretching afterward; this will help elongate any muscles that may have tightened up during the run itself.
  • Gradually Build Up Endurance – Increase the distance of your runs gradually over time so that you don’t overexert yourself too quickly and avoid injury while training for longer distances. 
  • Try Shorter Races – If you’re preparing for a full marathon race, try shorter races like 13.1s or relay races first. This will help you build up your endurance with smaller goals as you train for a 26.2. Take a peek at our sister half marathon — the Platte River Half Marathon & Relay in Littleton, CO, to help you train for a full marathon!

Acclimate to Where You’re Racing 

If you’re planning to race at higher altitudes than where you live or train regularly — such as with Colorado Marathon in Fort Collins nestled along the Poudre River in Colorado — it’s important to acclimate yourself accordingly through gradual increases in exposure to altitude over several days or weeks leading up to the race itself. Make sure you are hydrated and fueled properly throughout all of your training runs so that when race day comes around, you’ll have enough energy reserves stored up throughout the duration of the race itself. 

Get a Heart-Health Check-Up Before Race Day 

It is always recommended that runners get a checkup with their physician before beginning any serious training program or participating in any type of long-distance race. This is especially important for first-time marathoners, as well as runners with existing heart conditions or high blood pressure issues. Taking this step beforehand helps ensure that your body is ready for the demands of a challenging, long-distance race and gives you peace of mind knowing that your heart is healthy enough to safely participate.

Schedule Some Post-Race Recovery Time

Finally, make sure you schedule some time off after crossing that finish line — rest days are just as important as any other part of training for a marathon! Give yourself time to recover both physically and mentally: 

  • Take hot baths with Epsom salt to alleviate aches and pains
  • Use foam rollers to help loosen tight muscles
  • Get a massage to eliminate lactic acid buildup

Well, there you have it. Whether you’re running the full, half, 10k, or 5k, keep these heart-smart tips in mind as you prepare for the upcoming Colorado Marathon this spring. And if you haven’t registered for the next race, don’t forget that prices increase soon, so register early to save your spot. Happy training, friends, and we’ll see you at the starting line soon!